Nine games is far too small a sample size to tell you anything useful about any hitter in Major League Baseball. That hasn’t stopped the media from bombarding New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi with questions about Alex Rodriguez’s slow start.

Before Friday’s game, Girardi downplayed any concerns, telling reporters, “When it’s early in the season, it’s usually a lot more glaring. When you go 0-for-14 and you’ve got 400 at-bats under your belt, you’re hitting .275-.280, people don’t say a whole lot. But when it’s early in the season and you’re 40 and you’re Alex, you’re going to be asked about every day. Let’s hope he comes out with three hits so I stop getting asked.”

Not helping matters was the fact that Rodriguez was out of the lineup Friday night following the 0-fer. He’s 3-for-25 on the season with one home run. While that on its own isn’t unusual, when you combine his recent performance with his abysmal two months to end the 2015 season, Yankees fans have a reason to start getting nervous. Since August 1 of last year, Rodriguez has batted .183/.296/.381 in 243 PAs.

An 80 wRC+ for a guy with no defensive value is just not tenable. Considering how surprising his productive 2015 was to pretty much everyone on the planet, we shouldn’t be shocked if he completely collapses this season. Rodriguez is now closer to 41 than 40, and his body may have just not been up to the grind of the 151 games he put it through last year.

For his part, A-Rod says that physically he’s fine. Before Friday’s game, he told reporters, “I feel good. I could have easily had three or four hits in Toronto.” While a player is not always the most trustworthy barometer of their own performance, it does appear to this casual observer that Rodriguez has been the victim of some bad luck. Some regression should be expected from his monster 2015, but the .241/.332/.414 line PECOTA projects for him seems like an achievable goal that would allow him to keep a spot in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

New York’s playoff hopes more or less hinge on the ability of grizzled vets Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran to replicate their surprising 2015 renaissances. Without that power in the middle of the lineup, the Yankees attack looks decidedly average. If A-Rod can’t turn it around, the team’s lackluster start will probably continue.

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